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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  WHUT  May 19, 2013 8:30am-9:00am EDT

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welcome. i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. some conservative christian groups said they were among those targeted by the irs, amid the growing controversy over reports the agency discriminated against politically conservative groups. franklin graham, son of billy graham, said his relief organization, samaritans purse and the billy graham evangelistic association were both audited after the association sponsored newspaper ads opposing gay marriage. graham called the irs action morally wrong and unethical. but the groups did not lose their tax exempt status. the founder of focus of the family, james dobson, said he also faced discrimination when he sought tax exempt status for a new ministry. his request was also eventually granted. a breakthrough in cloning
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human embryos is raising new ethical concerns. employing the same technique used to clone animals, scientists at oregon health and science university for the first time were able to remove stem cells from a cloned human embryo. those cells could be used to treat certain diseases. boston cardinal sean o'malley, the head of the u.s. conference of catholic bishop's pro-life committee, was critical of the research, saying it treated human beings as "products." minnesota has joined the growing number of states that recognize same-sex marriage. it is the third state to do so in the past month, following rhode island and delaware. same-sex marriage is now legal in 12 states and the disict of columbia. next week in dallas, the national council of the boy scouts of america, with about 1,400 voting members, will decide on whether to change its policy and admit openly gay
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scouts under the age of 18. but gay scout leaders will still be banned. most scout troops are sponsored by religious groups that remain divided on the issue, as deborah potter reports. >> reporter: the boy scouts of america has long argued that homosexuality is incompatible with its basic principles. as a private organization, its right to exclude gays was upheld by the supreme court a decade ago. but the issue has remained divisive. pascal tessier, for one, hopes the scouts will lift the ban. i've had wonderful experiences with all the other boys and learning all my life skills and becoming a leader and all that. >> reporter: pascal is now 16 and just a few steps away from becoming an eagle scout, the highest rank in scouting. he's also openly gay. >> right now i'm on the line. i could get a letter any day
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saying i'm not part of scouts anymore. i'm kicked out. i would -- that's it, that's the end of it. that's the end of ten years of scouting. >> reporter: the policy change proposed by the boy scouts of america would affect more than 2.5 million boys. most of them -- 70% -- belong to troops that are sponsored by religious organizations. and the reaction from faith-based groups has been mixed. the mormon church, the largest single sponsor of scout groups, is on record as saying that homosexual acts are sinful. but it surprised many by giving its blessing to the boy scouts' proposal just weeks before the vote. united methodist churches, like metropolitan memorial in washington, d.c., supported the change from the start. senior pastor charles parker is a former scout and father of a 7-year-old boy. >> i think the scouts are actually wrestling with the same
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thing the church is wrestling with in terms of an erosion of membership over the years, and if they really want to communicate to a new generation of folks, my son is not going to understand bigotry towards homosexuals and wouldn't be part of a group that was bigoted. so if we want a new generation of scouts, we've got to do this. >> reporter: opponents of the proposal to accept gay scouts say it flies in the face of a basic tenet of scouting -- the oath boys take to be "morally straight." >> "to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." >> over 100 million boys have taken the scouts' oath. >> reporter: the christian conservative group family research council produced a national webcast to rally the opposition. >> changing the scout policy on homosexuality really brings up concerns of making sure the scouts live by the scout oath and law, when really we're supporting an idea that goes against it. >> the problem is that we as churches are setting a moral code in people's lives, as we're
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the conscience of the nation. and we have all our scout volunteers sign our statement of faith. and it's within that environment we're all in agreement of what we believe, that we're training our boys and teaching them to honor god and to be, as you say, "morally straight." and that would be incompatible with this change in scouting. we could not continue our relationship with them. >> reporter: to pascal tessier, the concerns makes no sense. >> sexuality does not have a place in scouts. it's about having good morals and be able to be a good person. so i think that bringing sexuality into it doesn't have any effect. your sexuality doesn't affect your morals. >> reporter: and some supporters of admitting gay scouts say the policy change doesn't go far enough. the boy scouts have drawn the line at 18, still refusing to accept gay adults as scout leaders. >> i think the issue of trying
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to intellectually justify that being gay and being a scout is fine, but being gay and being a leader is not fine is an odd one, because on some level you're training scouts to be leaders, and so if you're training gay scouts to be presumably gay leaders, but then you don't want gay leaders in the scouts, that's sort of an odd message to send. >> reporter: some troops undoubtedly will leave the boy scouts of america if the new policy is approved. but the organization faces a possible economic backlash if it retains the ban. measures are under review in several states to withhold funding or tax breaks from the scouts unless the ban is lifted. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm deborah potter in washington. >> "may the great scout master of all great scouts be with us until we meet again."
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the war in syria was a major topic of conversation this week as president obama met with the turkish prime minister in washington. turkey has taken in more than 400,000 syrian refugees since the conflict began. the united nations said if current rates continue, the total number of people fleeing the syrian violence could reach 3.5 million by the end of the year. the vatican reports that over a recent ten-year period, the number of catholics in the world increased by 1.5%. as of 2011, the catholic population was just over 1.2 billion. growth has dropped in europe and the u.s., but has accelerated in the developing world, particularly africa and asia. meanwhile, the number of permanent deacons, men who can be married and who are allowed
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to perform certain duties, rose 43% in europe and was also up sharply in the americas. but the number of women in religious orders has dropped 10%, worldwide. pope francis this week charged that certain policies of the global financial system are tyrannizing the poor. in a speech to new ambassadors to the vatican, francis warned against a "cult of money." he said money should serve and not rule. before becoming pope, francis was widely known as an advocate for the poor in his native argentina. we have a lucky severson story today on the impact on the poor in the u.s. of the federal government's so-called "sequestration." congress and the president last year approved the program's severe, across-the-board cuts as a way to force reductions in
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overall spending. but now, especially in big cities, the social costs of sequestration are becoming more and more clear. >> reporter: head start kids, 3 and 4 years old in baltimore. they're singing now, but will they be singing when the much-ballyhooed sequestration fully kicks in? come july, this particular head start program will lose over $100,000 in government funding. >> it's an enormous setback and i think a lot of what we're seeing now is that sequestration is real. >> reporter: eric stegman is an analyst for the center for american progress and an expert on sequestration and poverty. >> you've got so many different cuts hitting families from so many different directions it's going to be really hard for families to stay on their feet especially if they have trouble finding employment and other things they need to do to support their family. >> reporter: the sequestration is the law approved by congress and the president to cut
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$85 billion out of federal spending. the cuts will affect only discretionary spending, like defense, government agencies and a lot of programs that will impact low-income families in particular. it's the cities that will bear the brunt of the cuts and few big cities will be harder hit than baltimore, maryland. >> all of the things that are put in place to hold up the families are, you know, slowly one by one being pulled out. >> reporter: this is baltimore mayor stephanie rollins blake. >> every time we talk about a cut you're talking about many people who don't have an expensive lobby that is in washington, d.c. baltimore is by no means the poorest in the u.s. bill mccarthy is the executive director of catholic charities in maryland. >> if you think about the city of baltimore, 20% of our city lives in poverty. one of every four children in our city lives in poverty. we have an unemployment rate of
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about 11%. and if you go to segments of our city like west baltimore the unemployment rate is 60%. >> reporter: there are a number of churches trying to help the poor in maryland, but by far the largest aid organization is catholic charities with over 2,000 employees and 15,000 volunteers like these working here at our daily bread pantry that will serve over 300,000 meals this year. when paychecks run out, the line is a block long. >> many of these people are the working poor. i mean, coming out of the great recession has been tremendously difficult because you have people who had once been employed and many of those people found themselves out, you know trying to figure out what to do. >> throughout the year, the average recipient of long-term unemployment insurance is going to see their checks cut through the year by about $450 dollars and when you're already living on very little and trying to
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find a job, you do end up going to the food banks and other places to get assistance. >> reporter: the number of people in baltimore waiting for public housing, which faces huge cuts, is already 35,000. education for poor and disadvantaged kids will be cut several billion. funding for public safety is on the chopping block. >> that would be devastating, you know, as we are finding the resources to become a safer city. we need more resources not less. >> reporter: nationwide over 600,000 women and children will be cut from the special supplemental nutrition program. these are only a few of the hits on the poor. cuts also for meals on wheels. >> for most of the recipients, this is the only food that they get. and i think another thing that people don't understand is that meals on wheels is a program for very hungry low-income seniors and people with disabilities. >> reporter: for people like michelle rositzky, sequestration is like a train barreling down the track straight at her.
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>> ever since we heard about it, it's been weighing on our mind and worried about it every single day, wake up and find out one day we won't be able to bring our kids to head start and we have to worry about everything else. >> reporter: each day she picks up her little girl natalie from head start about 2:00 in the afternoon which allows both michelle and her husband to work. without head start, she would have to stay home. funding for day care help for low-income moms is also targeted. >> our bills are pretty big as everyone's bills are. we won't be able to pay our electric bill, we won't be able to pay our water bill. >> in the morning, when the children, some of the children when they come in, they're very hungry. they will eat several bowls of cereal. i mean, for a 3-year-old, that's fairly unusual. i mean, they depend on us for the food. >> reporter: mary gunning is the director of st. jerome's head start program where michelle brings natalie. she's already reduced her staff hours and other programs to meet the sequestration cuts. >> i don't think people
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understand already that, you know, you talk about being down to the bone, well we are, whatever is inside the marrow, that's where we are. >> reporter: studies have shown that a greater percentage of kids who go through head start go on to college. >> the cuts that we're making to the most vulnerable will have long-term personal impact, but they'll have extremely long-term economic impact if we don't ensure that someone graduates from high school then we should start to prepare for the likelihood of them being in the justice system and that's far more expensive. >> reporter: when sequestration first became law, the intent was it could not be tampered with. that changed when air traffic controllers were forced to take a day off and there were flight delays, passenger complaints and congress was just about to board airplanes to go home for recess. suddenly, in a rare display of bipartisanship, congress fixed
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the delays. >> it really says something about congress's priorities and i think a lot of struggling families in the country are asking congress where are they in their priorities. because air travelers are important but struggling families across the country are every bit as important. >> our budget is a moral document. it sets those priorities in terms of what we value as a society as necessary and important. whether it's a project in the defense department or putting our airline traffic controllers back to work at the same schedule without considering the poor and those that are marginalized is frankly immoral and very concerning. >> reporter: congress is now considering the possibility of tinkering with the defense budget so the sequestration won't hurt critical pentagon programs. there has been very little debate about easing the cuts on programs that are critical to the poor. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson in baltimore.
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in other news, a broad range of christian leaders gathered in washington to discuss ways to encourage more civil dialogue. they said they were concerned by the excessive politicization of washington and a climate some described as toxic. during the two-day summit, the leaders discussed ways to encourage lawmakers to come together for what they called the common good. this commencement season, when graduates are encouraged to go out and change the world, we have a segment on a man with a new graduate degree who also wants to change the political atmosphere of washington. he is mike mccurry, an old washington hand, and we found him at the washington national cathedral, which opened its doors last monday for the commencement ceremony of the wesley theological seminary.
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>> michael d. mccurry, with honors. >> mike mccurry is a united methodist who was press secretary for president clinton at the white house in the 1990s. later, he worked in public relations and also served on the board of the wesley theological seminary. it was then that he decided to get a graduate degree, a master of arts, and try to change the way washington works. >> the single biggest missing ingredient in our political system right now are real relationships of trust, you know, human relationships where people really think about and care about each other. and that's right where the church has to be. to me, that's what the church is about. i'm a guy who comes out of the world of political communications and how we express things in the media. i think we have got to tone it down a lot. i want to be very clear. we're not talking about taking church dogma and putting that
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front and center in the way we do policy making. we're not saying there ought to be a theocracy here. but i think there are ways in which people who are guided by the spirit, and who have a deep respect and love for god, treat each other a little bit differently. part of the study of scripture is that business about loving your neighbor as yourself. well, there's not a whole lot of that kind of love in washington. but we are a community and i think there are ways in which various faith traditions -- christianity, obviously, in my case, but others as well -- can bring us to a point where there's a little more spiritual bonding that can happen in this town. >> i asked him whether he could imagine that happening in congress. >> it's hard sometimes, you know, it would require a lot of prayer probably. >> later, mccurry acknowledged his sense of mission. >> i wanted to take courses at the seminary, first and frankly, out of intellectual curiosity. but the more i did it, the more i felt some sense of call, that god was putting on me a challenge to see if i could do
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something about this broken world of politics that i've worked in for so long, to do something to create a little more civil discourse in this country. >> and that's what you're going to do? >> that's what i'm going to use my degree to do. now, what sikhs in northern virginia call a turban showdown -- showing parents and children how to wrap long pieces of cloth into turbans and teaching their significance. our host was surinder singh, of the sikh foundation of virginia, who explained that sikh turbans are a mark of pride and responsibility. >> today we arranged a turban showdown. the idea behind it was to let the parents see their children in the turbans and, you know, how glorious they look, how eventually beautiful they become
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when they tie the turban on their head. sometimes parents don't know how to tie the turban on their children and, you know, they seek help from outside, so we've tried to bring the opportunity to them, that bring your children, we'll dress them up, and they'll walk on the runway and then you will see them, you know, with the turbans and you will get their pictures clicked. traditionally speaking in india, it used to be a kind of part of the life that when a father died the son took his place wherever he was in the life and then the turban was given to him as a part of responsibility that now you're carrying the responsibility on your head. similarly, when gurus gave the guruship to the next guru, the next teacher, they also gifted a turban with it. the guru's teachings were that being as natural as possible, as we are born. religiously we're never supposed to cut our hair on any part of
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the body. it's basically a lengthy, very soft cloth which becomes a turn ban and we kind of wrap it up a little bit in the beginning to make it more neater, and then we start tying it one step at a time. it's like one layer at a time. it's a stretch cloth so it just kind of keeps it easy to tie it up neatly. because our idea is that when you're carrying something on your head it has to look good, it has to be clean, it has to be inspiring others. women have not been participating that much, for a century or so i would say. they used to but it's kind of becoming a less of a fashion and we're trying to bring that back. we're trying to encourage them as well to tie the turban just like men do all the time where they go. we're not restricted in any color, that you cannot tie this color or you cannot tie this color on this occasion or something but again, colors do have significance. for example, white color is considered more like peaceful, you know, so when there's a death in the family or you go for a death ceremony we try to tie lighter colors, not bright,
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vibrant colors, but again, on the opposite, too, when we go to weddings and all we try to tie, you know, the more vibrant bright red colors. we did have many situations in the schools where they were being bullied around for even tying the small, like the patka type, they do the small cloth they warp their head with nowadays when they go to school, but any type of turban or any type of head gear basically i would say they were being bullied for and we have talked to the school administrations, we have gone for to, you know, take our part, that okay, how we can educate these people? we can bring them out of that ignorance that this is a part of our religion. the pride i carry when i tie it on my head in the morning and i, you know, have to walk outside. i'm carrying myself like a king. i'm walking out of my door like i've some responsibility on my head today and i'm going somewhere to do something better with my life and that courage is, you know, that inspiration comes from my turban. it's a mark of pride for us to carry the turban with us and
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it's a mark of respect, it's a mark of responsibility, so you want to see your child growing up and, you know, taking that responsibility. finally, on our calendar this week, 50 days after easter, sunday is pentecost for western christians when they celebrate god's gift of the holy spirit to the church. according to the new testament, the holy spirit came to jesus' followers in the form of tongues of fire. pentecost is often called the birthday of the church. and on thursday, bahai's observe the declaration of the bab, the day in 1844 when the spiritual leader known as the bab announced that he had been sent to prepare the way for god's universal messenger. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook.
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there's always more on our website. audio and video podcasts are also available. as we leave you, the wesley theological seminary performing at the national cathedral in washington, which recently received a $100,000 preservation grant which will be used to repair damage caused by the earthquake in 2011. ♪ the rock is going to cry out glory and honor ♪ major funding for "religion & ethics newsweekly" is provided by lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private foundation dedicated to its founders interests in religion,
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community development and education. additional funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company.
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lighting the way to a brighter future. ♪ - hi, this is bob scully, and welcome to another edition of the world show, the authors series. here i am on the harvard campus, and we're about to meet one of harvard's most brilliant young historians, john stauffer, an extremely prolific young historian who has just written an important book that takes us back a few years to a momentous and tragic event which convulsed and shocked america, and it split america. there were appeasers, and people out for blood, out for revenge. there were people who could